Friday, September 18, 2009

Going Way Back. Back to radinden

About my Quizzes

I was meant to reply to the following comment "radinden" (found on this post) made about my Times 2008 Arts quiz for The Knowledge supplement back in December, but I thought it needed a bump, so to speak, and that such "question difficulty/audience" issues and dirty battles will always remain pertinent:

Went through the Times one, with frequent cries of "bloody typical" and "oh god, another of his pet obscurities". You know, it would be interesting to see if you could actually set a good quiz for ordinary folk (you know, people who haven't spent ten years writing questions, or who don't revise GK every day) - I think it might kill you.

Oh it could kill me. I can't bear to think of the devastating consequences if I did write "good" pub quiz questions that have been written a thousand times before, rather than try and create new quiz Qs from ORIGINAL material that hasn't been pilfered word-for-word from another quiz book owned by hundreds of people you know.

But seriously. My belated reply, because you deserve an explanation of my modus operandi:

radinden, I forgot to say: I actually love your critique-quote in my own silly way. In fact, I love it so much (seriously!) that I'm going to put it on the back of my Quiz Book. You are quite right in some respects; there were a few "pet obscurities" and I like me challenging questions. As for the ordinary folk thing (do they live in Ambridge?), hmmmm ... here we go (as Aidan Moffat once said):

With regards to the set you went through and aggrieved you so mightily, the Times end-of-year Arts quiz - incidentally, comprised entirely of material taken directly from the newspaper that published it, i.e. Knowledge cover stars (you know the Saturday supplement the quiz was in), interviews, featured overnight reviews, critics' top recommendations and other Times articles of the said year - was designed to encompass all of the arts (performing or otherwise) and everything the supplement covered, and was therefore aimed at eclectic music fans, film buffs, theatregoers, expo/museum visitors etc who read the magazine on a regular basis - I'm wondering, did you read what was then The Knowledge every week? Or did you just look at the internet link, read the Linear B-like wording and though BAH! HE'S DONE IT AGAIN! THE OBSCURIST SWINE!? Do you actually take "The Thunderer" as part of your daily paper-reading routine? Or even just the Saturday edition?

Once again I must reiterate, it wasn't aimed at the general quizzer, pub or otherwise, but at readers who knew their 2008 Times-approved arts stuff (I certainly didn't get any complaints from my editors, who published it practically verbatim). Also, modern thingy questions - the kind of stuff that has just happened - can be hard on the not-so-up-to-date quiz fan. If it's not in a trivia companion reference book, how obscure! Etc. No, it's just "recent". Brand shining new.

So keep up at the back and learn summat current by reading a paper and magazine or two. Or three or seven.

More generally, specialist end of year quizzes - especially those found in the broadsheets - are near impenetrable to the casual reader who has no long-standing interest in the subject they concentrate on. Go look up some "Books" quizzes. How do you like them apples? And my word, some of the business ones at the end of last year! They did my head in because they were completely devoid of any questions I could cope with. I thought, how could "ordinary folk" cope with such a calamity, if I was coming up with nada answers!

Moreover, and pre-emptive sincere apologies for sounding like an ego-bloated boastful prig, you'd actually be surprised at the thousands (yes, 1000s) of gettable questions I've written that regular quiz fans, such as yourself, would be very happy to answer and think to be perfectly reasonable that have been used on about at least half-a-dozen TV quiz shows during the last 18 months (though admittedly, and apologies once more, a couple of hundred were terribly hard and impossible and liable to verily frustrate your good self).

Without knowing it, if you happen to be a regular quiz show fan, you will have seen and heard them and not instantly thought ("Good god that is such a TQG question. So many petty obscurities, and in just one question! How could such a thing be possible? What an elitist, uncomprehending rotter!"). Oh, you should have seen some of the 250 or so I wrote last week. Soooo easy. Well in my biased view (as you know).

Course you wouldn't know which ones, due to things like the show host not remarking "This question was written by TQG. Be prepared" and the small matter of confidentiality contracts. But this particular point is concerned with the fact that different audiences get tailored quizzes. I always write more or less according to the brief I have been given; and none of these briefs at the moment include the writing of a regular pub quiz or weekly quiz league set for normal folk who like a bit of manageable quiz. Neither have I ever done these particular kinds of jobs, except for the rare one-offs. Therefore, who exactly am I wronging so?

PS. Don't make false assumptions about how I prep, matey, or for that matter, about quizzers who you think have got to the top/top-ish of their field by being a uniform mass of unimaginative fact-learning drones with bad fashion/hygiene issues - all of us are different. You'd be surprised at the ways of the exemplar quiz autodidact.

Personally speaking, I've only been writing questions for six years and don't revise GK every day. I don't even do the kind of revision I assume you have in mind, a la looking at mindnumbing lists or reading encyclopedias for the sheer bloody fun of it (not since, say 2006); that's just way too boring. Brain-death would set in after 10 minutes and those types of trivia-bore books can only take you so far. The fact-absorption I indulge in has become a neat byproduct of the question-writing jobs: killing two birds with one stone, as it were. So there.

I do like reading novels and non-fiction books every day, however. Currently (as of September 18, 2009): Mao II by Don DeLillo and Headlong by Michael Frayn. Both brilliant works, as far as I can tell after about 100 pages of each. How you do feel about the "future belonging to crowds", the explosion of Middle East terrorism, reclusive authors and Brueghel's lost works, as well as provenance and attribution issues in the world of art?

But anyways, I'm serious about the quote, radinden. Love love love it! It's going on the blurb! (Penny) royalties will be in whichever PO BOX number you choose.

What I've said may be perceived as downright pissy mockery; its facetiousness overwhelming what I hope are worthwhile points, but it is a like-for-like reciprocation of your comment. Sorry, if you think I've overstepped the mark ... by a few kiloparsecs. These things can get very heated. But this is my right of (very long delayed) reply.


Anonymous Radinden said...


You are welcome as ever to overstep the mark as far as you wish when abusing a fellow question-setter, especially one who has had the pleasure of editing so many of your pet obscurities in the past.

For I do not take The Times regularly - I prefer its New York namesake - nor do I even deign to look at most end-of-year quizzes, save those that are set by a writer whose pedigree I know.

And I hope that, in some 15 years of writing questions and rarely playing, I have kept up at the back and read the odd newspaper, but two University Challenge finals may just have been a fluke.

But I meant my comment - some nine months ago - in a spirit of festive mockery - and you are more than at liberty to respond in your usual tone - wittily vituperative - and usual manner - at length.

By now, sir, you will have realised that someone of your acquaintance carries a nom-de-internet of which you were not previously aware, and may even have fathomed that it is one particular viagra-joke-loving, occasional-tournament-organising, harassed question setter of your acquaintance.

The compliments of the season to you, sir, for I remain, etc.

R J Linham, Esq.
aka Radinden

11:04 AM  
Blogger That Quiz Guy said...

Mr Linham!

If I'd known it was you, well, you know...

I am laughing somewhat uproariously at this point, as you can imagine.

Obviously, I was using your comment as a kind of wider launching pad to lay into a number of other people, who sometimes pursue the same lines of criticism. And my answers to the critics still stand tall. Having tottered slightly, a few minutes ago.

By some freak occurrence there happened to be a 10-month old comment from some random guy - this obnoxious git - whose true identity was a total mystery to me, who had the temerity to question my 2008 Arts quiz. How dare this faceless fool belittle my efforts? Therefore, he becomes the convenient target for my wittily vituperative attacks.

Philosophically speaking, the "hilarious" misunderstanding means that this person - my idea of Radinden - doesn't actual exist in this physical reality, right?

Many thanks for years of dealing with "my pet obscurities". It's a rubbish job, but a cursed select few have to. And I think the grammar's getting better. Maybe.

And please, please can we have another Masoquizm. And I'm not just saying that because a team containing the likes of myself, Jesse and Bayley would rather relish the opportunity to be reminded of the older days. By mercilessly crushing undergrad teams.

And it's "radinden", right? R-A-D-I-D-E-N.

As someone who thinks internet de plumes are a bit silly (see my imaginative username on the Quizzing website), they're one of those things which my mind has deemed unnecessary and has subsequently lost the ability to store, but having said that I've never even heard you use that web name.

Plus, I'm still going to use the quote. You don't mind do you?

Best festive wishes to you, sir. In three months' time.


11:37 AM  
Anonymous Radinden said...

Mr T Q Guy, sir,

I regret that your impression of Radinden is indeed false - but that of course depends on your version of reality. But in any case, I don't mind in the slightest if you use the quote: it was written to be read (and even mocked).

As for Radinden (two n's, please), it's the name under which I use Twitter and under which I (rarely) blog, and indeed also names the domain at which I am building a website in my "copious" free time. Just because I don't use the Quizzing site, I may as well be dead these days!

But in return for brightening my evening so, you can indeed have another Masoquizm. Saturday 21 November: an exclusive to you, sir. Expect an announcement in the next week or two.

I look forward to your 2009 arts quiz, and shall undoubtedly also mock that to mask my hopeless ignorance of art-house films and the Booker Prize.

All the best,


12:23 PM  
Anonymous Someone who knows both of you well said...

This whole exchange has filled me with great, great, joy. Thank you both.

9:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home